Among the oaks
There is no better place to sit and think than on one of the rocky outcrops offering entrancing views of the magnificent Haliburton landscape.
I am sitting on one now, staring down at the mysteries of forest life, and into a clearing where perhaps a doe and her fawn, or a meandering black bear, might appear.
This is a wonderfully intriguing place, but not just because of the chance to see wildlife. From my vantage point I get to study a small piece of nature and reflect on what a great teacher it is.
What fascinates me is how anything can grow on this hill of blue granite, created thousands of years ago from a surging of molten rock.
There is little plant life on this tabletop of hard rock. Yet somehow there are trees. Not just any trees, but regal red oaks standing strong and proud like monarchs overseeing their kingdoms.
Somehow these oaks made a home here. Over many decades, decaying vegetable matter carried by the winds gathered into crevices in the rock, eventually becoming soil. Acorns dropped by birds, squirrels or wind found their way into the soil-filled crevices and began the lives of the mighty oaks now here.
However, some of the oaks are mighty no longer because they are not standing. And that’s the reason that I am up here.
A couple of summers ago a wild, twisting wind roared into this forest, knocking down poplars and evergreens in the lower areas. Not content with wreaking damage down there, the wind turned and spun its way up and across this rocky hill.
The oaks are rooted tenuously on the rock, and 16 of them were uprooted by the wind, which I believe was small tornado. It was sad to find them lying there, their only use now being winter firewood, to which I am entitled because I have legal deed to this forest although in fact I am only its temporary custodian.
Cutting firewood is satisfying, but tiring, work. So whenever I stop the chainsaw to take a rest I sit on the rock and think about this forest.
The similarities between human life and the lives of trees in this forest are fascinating.
The oaks have formed a colony on this rock tabletop because they are strong and conditioned for living in meagre conditions. Enough rain slides off the smooth rock surfaces into crevices to quench the roots’ thirst.
Below the hill, the fast-growing poplars have colonized the soft, rich soil areas. Some now are 80 to 100 feet high, threatening to block the sunlight needed by the oaks on the hill. Poplars, unlike the oaks, have a short life span and the tallest ones will have expired before they become a real threat to the oaks.
Two other interesting trees have gathered in preferred living areas of this forest. Young white pines, once the dominant tree species of this part of the country, are populating open areas featuring sandy soil conditions. Here their roots can spread easily and their needles can catch the sunlight and the open air that they love.
Farther off to my right and out of sight are the clean-cut, smooth-bark beeches. They occupy an east exposure hillside that bathes in the morning sun.
Not one beech is found on the far side of that hill. Why I am not sure. Perhaps they simply favour the morning sun over the evening sun. They seem to have found a place they like and have no intention of spreading farther.
These tree families are much like people families. There are times when change forces them to migrate. When they do, they pick places where they believe they can put down roots, have productive lives and raise future generations.
Looking down from this outcrop I can see patches of mixed forest. Areas where pines, poplars, oaks, maples and beeches are living together despite their different needs and preferences.
The human world also is well along the way to blending into a mixed forest of people.
When you sit staring out from a rocky outcrop, nature tells you that while there are many species of trees, and many different races of people, trees are still trees and people are still people, no matter what their differences.